VAST

Nude

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    5
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AllMusic Review by

Officially, Nude is VAST's first release in over four years, and his first for the new Carson Daly-affiliated imprint 456. But longtime fans will recognize its tracks as fleshed-out versions of tracks previously issued as Internet-only demos by VAST main brain Jon Crosby. Whereas 2000's Music for People more directly blended Crosby's progressive flourishes with a strident pop voice akin to P.I.L.'s later incarnations, Nude largely retools VAST's self-titled 1998 debut for the new century. Adorned with moody, classicist frescoes and rife with spiritual lyrical imagery, the album echoes with worldly orchestrations and a grave demeanor even as it courts melodic post-grunge rock. It's a bold mix but one that's also problematic. Crosby is a talented producer and arranger, so his faraway vocal choirs and manipulated sound effects have the ability to evoke the unsettling tension that once tinged Coil's dark electronic experiments. Unfortunately, those atmospherics deflate in the face of guitar-heavy modern rock appliqu├ęs ("Japanese Fantasy," "I Need to Say Goodbye") or stilted Stain-style soul-searching ("Be With Me"). It becomes a forced hybrid, unable to retain its Dead Can Dance-style austerity amid the broader signature of modern rock. This means songs like "Turquoise" and "Thrown Away" are some of Nude's stronger moments since both rumble with throaty rock pacing but are still tinged with enough bizarre electronic squiggles or processed vocal exotica to be unique. Crosby has never sounded more like Bono than in the lush landscape of "Lost" or over the plaintive piano and treated guitars of "Candle," and the late-album standout "I Can't Say No (To You)" is a respectable run at sensual downtempo electronica. VAST aficionados should certainly enjoy Nude, educated as they are about Crosby's highly stylized approach. But the casual listener might be unsure what to make of the album's baroque, high-concept cocktail.

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